Notes from Up North

Although we're not the northernmost supplier of gladiolus in the Western Hemisphere, we're pretty far up there! With that in mind, the annual letter which appears in our catalog is called "Notes from Up North." Generally we convince Paul to write it while Elisabeth and the rest of the Cates Family Glads team work on inventory and creating the price list. It's our way of keeping in touch with our loyal customer base.


January 2000

This year I resolved to follow Botran directions exactly. So I got out my bag of Botran, with directions on the front. Well, there was no mention of glads and no mention of row treatment. And the suggested formula, 1¾ pounds per 100 imperical gallons of water, was beyond my rather simple-minded approach to gardening. Also, should I follow the directions for peaches or garlic, hydrangea or whatever?

The heck with it. So I went back to the tried-and-true method of a cupful of Botran to five gallons of water.

There has always been a problem of small, undissolved flakes of Botran clogging up the watering can nozzle. Well, I did solve this problem today for the first time. I poured about a gallon of very warm water into a bucket, added a cupful of Botran powder, and then a squirt (around a teaspoonful) of Shaklee's Basic H as a wetting agent. Then a vigorous stirring and, voilà! Everything was dissolved.

This created a new problem. Now the solution poured too fast from the watering can, a very painful situation for this economy-minded person of Scottish ancestry.

Can you picture a 73-year-old man running along the glad rows in order to save a bit of Botran? I told myself, "Apparently you would risk using too little Botran and even having a heart attack, to save a few pennies."

Still, as I was lying flat and panting heavily on the fresh greengrass beyond the end of a row, I felt the cool spring Zephyr (the breeze, not the glad) on my sweating forehead. It seemed, despite everything, that life was really great!

By lunchtime the early field was treated and ready to plant. But there must be an easier way to do this! I have two teenaged daughters, both into high school track. Do you suppose that I could persuade them that running an acre of glad rows with Botran would almost guarantee victory in their races at the state meet?

At the end of the day, cutflower plantings of Lady Lucille and Florence C. were in the ground, and a good part of our planting stock had been strewn and covered. This makes it all seem worthwhile!

I notice in Glad World that Talk Radio recommends a drenching with Botran on bulbs, which are in the rows. I have always felt that the roots of the bulbs should go down into Botran-treated soil. Perhaps our method would not work as well in a warmer climate.

Now, in the January Glad World, the Northwest Ohio newsletter speaks of problems with Botran. Personally, I would never drench bulbs with Botran. A grower friend of mine soaked bulbs in Botran, and the results were catastrophic. Except for a weed problem in one field, our glads were superb in 1999, so perhaps our penny pinching use of Botran has merit, at least for us. Still, it seems that the "Botran users beware!" slogan is warranted.

We did some things right in the summer of 1999. I had several strategies planned in case the deer raided our fields in early September, as they had in 1998. But the deer had their own strategy which did not involve waiting until September. In early July the first early glads were in bud. The adjoining alfalfa field was lush and green, but our deer had apparently developed gourmet tastes, because one morning I discovered that a large percentage of our Early Highlight buds had been consumed during the previous night. (They might at least have left a tip for the grower of their delicious meal!)

Time for action, which included spraying the fields' borders with 'Hinder', depositing nylon baggies of human hair here and there (thanks to the local barber), and erecting six scare-deer structures, made of scrap wood and old clothes, in the various glad fields. The result was very effective deer control.

The serious thrips problem of 1998 simply did not emerge. Apparently our thorough dusting of bulbs after cleaning them, plus the cold outdoor winter weather of 1998-1999 had given effective control. In 1999 I saw only three plants with slight thrip damage.

Well, there always has to be one major crisis. Our best helper left just before the main weeding season. (Don't know as I blame him!) Before we knew it the weeds had overwhelmed our midseason glad crop. After some days of a valiant but losing battle, working alone, we were smart enough to abandon the midseason glads and concentrate on weeding the late, salvageable crop, and so the likes of Summer Rose, Anna Leorah, Vega, and Janus saved the season for us. Round Up sprayed low on emerging weeds was invaluable, although it did cause a few leathery blooms, perhaps the result of spraying too close. Some florists really liked our leathery 'lily glads', as they called them.

The summer of 1999 saw Lady Lucille in commercial production for the first time. You know that a cultivar has commercial merit when certain florists, for the first time ever, start asking for a glad by name! If Lady Lucille has any drawback commercially it is in the fact that it is a long-season bloomer. (If you need a fast-blooming cultivar in the same color range, try another beauty, Anna Leorah. Its shorter flowerhead is plenty long for most florist use.) Lady Lucille's long season has a real advantage for showing purposes. No matter when the show is held, you should have a few excellent spikes of Lady Lucille available.

Old-timers redeveloping healthy commercial stock in 1999 included Golden Star, Apricot Lustre, and Party Pink. A very pretty 1998 introduction, Chloe's Dream, became much more interesting when it turned out to be a first early bloomer!

What a vintage year for new introductions! Many new cultivars that we tried out were superb, but I'll mention only the ones that we liked best. Replica seemed even better than its sister Ocean Breeze. It is more yellow, and we think, more a true miniature. Our second top 1999 favorite was Calista from Bates. The two spikes we had were close to perfection.

Other new varieties which were superb for us, were Mirror Image, Millennium, Marj S., and Bobbie Ann. My daughter Margaret really liked the novelty glad, Wild Thing.

Phantom from Frazee deserves special mention. I wrote on the stake, "Stunning! Everyone should grow this glad!" Norma J. lived up to its great reputation.

We are looking forward to the season of 2000, and I'm convinced that many spikes of breathtaking beauty will more than make up for the seemingly inevitable catastrophes. I wish you all much pleasure and satisfaction with our great flower.



Previous Letters

1997: "If you're selling glads commercially, color becomes your focus..." [READ MORE]
1996: "It always seemed to me to be a minor scandal..." [READ MORE]